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Plutonium Conversion


Feasibility study of technologies for accelerator based conversion of military plutonium and long-lived radioactive waste.

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Kondratenkov Yu B

Leading Institute
ITEF (ITEP), Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Non-Organic Materials named after A. Bochvar, Russia, Moscow
  • Khlopin Radium Institute, Russia, St Petersburg
  • VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov
  • VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk
  • All-Russian Research and Designing Institute of Complex Energetic Technology / VNIPIET (Sosnovy Bor Branch), Russia, Leningrad reg., St Petersburg
  • FEI (IPPE), Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk


  • Los-Alamos National Laboratory, USA, NM, Los-Alamos
  • CERN, Switzerland, Geneva

Project summary

Around 1989 the LANL (US) specialists advanced an idea to transmute the long-lived radioactive waste by super high fluxes of thermal neutrons. The fluxes would be provided by accelerator driven neutron source. Later when the US and Russia governments have agreed mutually to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles the US institution group have proposed the utilization of surplus plutonium as an energy resource for accelerator driven power plant.

The purpose of the proposed effort of the Russian institutes group is a feasibility study of energy production from bum up of weapons-grade Pu being removed from weapons stockpiles, energy production from actinides in defence nuclear waste and nuclear power waste and also transmutation of the most hazardous long-lived fission products to stable or short-lived species. We propose to study an integrated set of technologies to safely consume the weapons plutonium and recycle the nuclear waste.

The scope of Accelerator Based Conversion (ABC), involves using a medium-energy proton accelerator to produce a copious source of thermal neutrons that are multiplied and absorbed in an assembly of Pu and higher actinides. The result of the proposal will provide the necessary background to the concept of the accelerator based systems to accomplish the complete conversion of the weapon materials by fission.

Powerful proton linacs are being studied here as drivers for high-flux neutron sources that can transmute long-lived fission products and actinides and also as drivers of advanced fission-energy systems that could generate electric power with no long-term waste legacy. The Accelerator Transmutation of Waste (ATW) is considered here as a longer-range but potentially higher-impact application than the surplus Pu conversion and as a technology closely allied to the ABC.

The scientific significance is that ABC/ATW leads to a reduction in weapons Pu to be stored by using waste-free technologies, for it allows the simultaneous destruction of the actinides and key long-lived fission products, significantly reducing the waste storage requirements. It will advance reactor science and technology.

The ABC/ATW concept provides almost unlimited energy with a very small long-lived radioactive waste stream. The commercial effect is expected to be ensured by the conversion of Pu and nuclear waste to practically stable low level fission product waste with a reasonable cost addition to nuclear electric power generation.

The proposal addresses the objectives of ISTC, since ABC/ATW will develop and demonstrate a technology that requires much of the technical expertise, accumulated in Russia weapons laboratories. ABC/ATW will promote the integration of weapons scientists of Russia into the civilian sphere of developing safe nuclear power technologies and of environmental production. It is expected that the proportion of weapons scientists and engineers participating will be more than 60%.


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